Tag: performance

SurfaceBook

10 reasons why the Surface Book is great for IT Pros

As I mentioned in my little Surface Book review a couple of days ago, I really like the Microsoft Surface Book and it is my daily driver since November 2015. The Surface Book has a lot of reasons why it is a great device, but I want to highlight  some reasons why it is not only a great device for artists, but also for the IT professionals.

The performance is incredible

SurfaceBook

As many of you know I am using my Surface Book for a lot of demos and also testing a lot of stuff. I run Hyper-V on my Windows 10 machine and it is extremely fast. Virtual Machines boot up in just a couple of seconds and if you for example run the new Nano Server in a Virtual Machine, the installation of a new Nano Server Virtual Machine is done in under 3 seconds. If you want to run more Virtual Machines on your device, make sure you get the 16GB RAM model. Not only do you get plenty of power with the Intel Core i5 or Core i7 chip, the NVMe SSD disk is blazing fast and can be up to 1TB.

The touchscreen with the pen support is great

Surface Pro and Surface Book

If you have a touch screen machine you just get used to use your fingers while browsing or writing stuff down in OneNote. The pen is just perfect for taking notes or doing presentations or workshops with customers. Since I got my first Surface device, I never really used a whiteboard or something like that. I just used OneNote and a projector to draw and after the meeting I could easily sent the drawings to all the attendees.

Tablet Mode can be handy

Surface Book Tablet Mode

I wouldn’t consider myself as a huge tablet user, but there are several scenarios where you will love the possibility to convert your Surface Pro or Surface Book into a tablet. For my job I travel a lot and I realized, I used the tablet mode a lot while for example being in a plan or train, to just read some stuff or watch movies. This is also really handy if you sit at home in front of the TV or if you are in a hotel room and just wanted to watch some Netflix, before you go to sleep. But there are two other very useful scenarios for me. The first one is while I am doing presentations for customer I use the Surface Pen a lot, but instead of sitting in front of my Surface Book, I can take the keyboard of and walk around while doing the presentation and draw on my Surface. The second one is when I am in a meeting and I want to take handwritten notes, the tablet mode is perfect, I can just use it as a piece of paper, which makes it much more attractive to write on and also I am not hiding behind a computer screen. By the way, the tablet or screen it self is extremely light so even holding it with one hand is great.

Enterprise Security and Windows Hello

Surface Book Windows Hello

Well if you are working and traveling a lot, security is a very important part. Protecting your data using the Surface Book is very easy, since it comes with a TPM 2.0 chip you can encrypt your SSD and all the data stored on. The other thing I really like is the camera supporting face detection using Windows Hello. First I thought this feature is just a nice toy, but hey, I really got used to it, I just open my Surface Book and I get logged in without typing the password.

Battery Life is awesome

When did you get a thing and light device and you didn’t had to worry about battery life for a whole day? With the Surface Pro 3 I was very close to it, but the Surface Book finally gets me trough a whole day without the need to recharge. I get around 8-12 hours of battery life depending on the workload I am running. In the morning I can leave without a power supply and can work the whole day.

The Screen

Surface Book

This is another great feature of the Surface Book, the screen is sharp and the colors are amazing, but this is not the only reason I love the Surface Book screen. The Surface Book comes with a 13.5” PixelSense display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a resolution of 3000 x 2000 (267 PPI). This gives you enough space on the screen to get some work done, without making the device to big. Especially the 3:2 aspect ratio is one thing I really like, especially while writing and reading.

Connectivity and accessories

Microsoft also adds a lot of great accessories to the Surface product line. The Surface Book comes with 2 USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized SD card slot, a headset jack, a Mini DisplayPort and a Surface Connect port, which allows you to connect the power supply or the Surface Docking station. It also used the latest Wifi and Bluetooth connections to connect wirelessly to networks or devices. The Surface Book comes also with great cameras, stereo microphones and speakers which make the device great for video or voice conference calls. But also the small things you will start to like, for example the additional USB port in the power supply, which allows you to charge other devices like your smartphone or your Microsoft Band, without having to carry another charger.

The Docking Station makes it a great workstation

Surface Book Home Office

If I am at home or in our company office I can connect the Surface Book to the Surface Docking Station, which turns it into a full workstation. At home I use 2 Dell 27” screens using the 2 Mini DisplayPort adapters on the Surface Docking station. I also like the additional USB 3.0 ports you get with the docking station.

Perfect device to travel

Surface Book Travel

The Surface Book and also the Surface Pro are in my opinion some of the best options if you travel a lot. First the devices are light and have a small footprint, so carrying them is easy. But they still have a lot of performance to run some heavy workloads where ever you are, and with the battery life you get, even long flights or long work days are not a problem at all. But what really makes it great, you just need one device, you don’t have to carry a notebook and a tablet to have all the options, you can simply unplug the keyboard and you can go from laptop mode to tablet mode. With Windows 10 owning a 2in1 or 3in1 devices makes even much more fun.

Deliver great presentation using the Wireless Display Adapter

Surface Book Presentation

As I mentioned before, I use the Surface Book for a lot of presentations and workshops. With the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter you can even do this wirelessly, which makes especially workshops more interactive and fun.



Windows Server 2012 SMB Direct RDMA Copy

Hyper-V over SMB: SMB Direct (RDMA)

Another important part of SMB 3.0 and Hyper-V over SMB is the performance. In the past you could use iSCSI, Fiber Channel or FCoE (Fiber Channel over Ethernet). Now SMB 3.0 has a lot of performance improvements to make the Hyper-V over SMB scenario even work. But if you need even more performance you can use new feature which came with Windows Server 2012 and is of course also present in Windows Server 2012 R2 called SMB Direct, which supports the use of network adapters that have Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) capability.  Network adapters with RDMA offer some great enhancements such as very low latency, increased throughput and low CPU utilization since the functionality is offloaded to the network card.

Advantages

  • Increased throughput: Leverages the full throughput of high speed networks where the network adapters coordinate the transfer of large amounts of data at line speed.
  • Low latency: Provides extremely fast responses to network requests, and, as a result, makes remote file storage feel as if it is directly attached block storage.
  • Low CPU utilization: Uses fewer CPU cycles when transferring data over the network, which leaves more power available to server applications.

(Source TechNet)

Technology and Requirements

At the moment there are different versions of network adapters with RDMA capabilities, currently these are iWARP, InfiniBand or RoCE.

  • iWARP, is a simple solution which does not really need any more configuraiton
  • InfiniBand,
  • RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet), which needs also Switches to be configured in the right way for bandwidth management (DCB/PFC)

On the software side you need Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2 with SMB 3.0. SMB Direct is not supported in previous versions of SMB and Windows Server.

Setup of SMB Direct

Well SMB Direct or RDMA if oyu will is enabled by default, so Windows Server will make use of it when ever possible. But there are some things you have to make sure.

  • Which type of RDMA am I using, is it iWARP, InfiniBand or RoCE. Some of them maybe require additional configuration on the network. If you are using RoCE RDMA seems to work without configuration but you can run into performance issues as my fellow Microsoft MVP Didier van Hoye descripes in his blog post.
  • Install the latest NIC drivers
  • Install the latest firmware
  • Enable SMB Multichannel if you disabled it. SMB Direct will be also disabled when you disable Multichannel.
  • In a Failover Cluster make sure that the RDMA NICs are also marked as client access adapters.
  • SMB Direct doesn’t work with NIC Teaming or Virtual Switches
  • On the file server you should also tune performance by disabling hyper threading, Disabling processor C States and setting the power profile to full power.

Verify SMB configuration

Verify if RDMA is enabled, first cmdlet checks if it’s enabled on the server it self, second one checks if it’s enabled on the network adapters and the third checks if the hardware is RDMA capable.

 
Get-NetOffloadGlobalSetting | Select NetworkDirect
Get-NetAdapterRDMA
Get-NetAdapterHardwareInfo

Verify that SMB Multichannel is enabled, which confirms the NICs are being properly recognized by SMB and that their RDMA capability is being properly identified.

On the client:

 
Get-SmbClientConfiguration | Select EnableMultichannel
Get-SmbClientNetworkInterface

On the server:

 
Get-SmbServerConfiguration | Select EnableMultichannel
Get-SmbServerNetworkInterface
netstat.exe -xan | ? {$_ -match "445"}

And as already mentioned in the SMB Mutlichannel blog post, you can verify the SMB connections:

 
Get-SmbConnection
Get-SmbMultichannelConnection
netstat.exe -xan | ? {$_ -match "445"}

And of course you have some great performance counters.

SMB Direct Performance Counters

If you run some copy jobs you can see the amazing performance (if your storage is fast enough). Here you can also see a print screen with Mellanox ConnectX-3 Ethnernet adapters which are using RoCE in Windows Server 2012. You can see that you don’t see any TCP traffic in the Task Manager on the RDMA NICs.

Windows Server 2012 SMB Direct RDMA Copy

Get more information about SMB Direct on Jose Barretos blog SMB3.info or on Microsoft TechNet.



Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V: Virtual Disk VHD & VHDX recommendations

Windows Server 2012 Logo

In the new released Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012 you can find a lot of tuning information for Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. One important part is the Virtual Disk chapter which is all about the VHD and the new VHDX format.

The basic key takeaways are:

  • Use VHDX every time
  • Use Dynamic VHDX

The VHDX format:

VHDX is a new virtual hard disk format introduced in Windows Server 2012, which allows you to create resilient high-performance virtual disks up to 64 terabytes. Benefits of this format include:

  • Support for virtual hard disk storage capacity of up to 64 terabytes.
  • Protection against data corruption during power failures by logging updates to the VHDX metadata structures.
  • Ability to store custom metadata about a file, which a user might want to record, such as operating system version or patches applied.

The VHDX format also provides the following performance benefits (each of these is detailed later in this guide):

  • Improved alignment of the virtual hard disk format to work well on large sector disks.
  • Larger block sizes for dynamic and differential disks, which allows these disks to attune to the needs of the workload.
  • 4 KB logical sector virtual disk that allows for increased performance when used by applications and workloads that are designed for 4 KB sectors.
  • Efficiency in representing data, which results in smaller file size and allows the underlying physical storage device to reclaim unused space. (Trim requires trim-compatible hardware.)

When you upgrade to Windows Server 2012, we recommend that you convert all VHD files to the VHDX format due to these benefits. The only scenario where it would make sense to keep the files in the VHD format is when a virtual machine has the potential to be moved to a previous release of the Windows Server operating system that supports Hyper-V.

VHD File Type

The following recommendations should be taken into consideration with regards to selecting a VHD file type:

  • When using the VHD format, we recommend that you use the fixed type because it has better resiliency and performance characteristics compared to the other VHD file types.
  • When using the VHDX format, we recommend that you use the dynamic type because it offers resiliency guarantees in addition to space savings that are associated with allocating space only when there is a need to do so.
  • The fixed type is also recommended, irrespective of the format, when the storage on the hosting volume is not actively monitored to ensure that sufficient disk space is present when expanding the VHD file at run time.
  • Snapshots of a virtual machine create a differencing VHD to store Writes to the disks. Having only a few snapshots can elevate the CPU usage of storage I/Os, but might not noticeably affect performance except in highly I/O-intensive server workloads. However, having a large chain of snapshots can noticeably affect performance because reading from the VHD can require checking for the requested blocks in many differencing VHDs. Keeping snapshot chains short is important for maintaining good disk I/O performance.

For more information checkout the Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012.

And check out my other post about VHD and VHDX for Hyper-V:

Update 1:

My Virtual Machine MVP colleague Carsten Rachfahl just told me that now also IDE devices can use the TRIM function for VHDX files. That means that VHDX on SCSI or IDE controller as well as pass-through disks support TRIM. The only thing which is required is trim-compatible hardware.

Update 2:

Even the GUI in Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 recommend Fixed size for VHDs and Dynamic expanding for VHDX.

I have now server customer environment running in products for a couple of months and all are using the new Dynamic Expanding VHDX format. No problems and performance issues at all. Dynamic Expanding VHDX disks are even running faster than Fixed Size VHD files.

 



Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V – How to create a new VHD from a source VHD

Windows Server 2012 RC Logo

Microsoft MVP Aidan Finn posted a interesting blog post about Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) Block Fragmentation. He was reviewing the document about Performance Tuning Guidelines for Windows Server 2012 and found a very important note about VHD performance.

Just as the allocations on a physical disk can be fragmented, the allocation of the blocks on a virtual disk can be fragmented when two virtually adjacent blocks are not allocated together on a virtual disk file.

The fragmentation percentage is reported for disks. If a performance issue noticed on a virtual disk, you should check the fragmentation percentage. When applicable, defragment the virtual disk by creating a new virtual disk with the data from the fragmented disk by using the Create from Source option.

Now first thanks to Aidan Finn for finding this one. But how do I create a new VHD or VHDX from a source? Simple there are two ways of doing that, the first one is over the Hyper-V Manager GUI.

Create a new VHD and give it a new name.

New Defrag VHD

On the Configure Disk window check the Copy the contents of the specified virtual hard disk, and select the path to the source VHD.

Copy the contents of the specified virtual hard disk

Click next and finish and this will create the new VHD with the content from the source VHD.

Creating the new virtual hard disk

The second and my preferred way of doing it, is of course with Windows PowerShell.

Create the new virtual hard disk from Source via PowerShell

 
# Mount the Source VHD
Mount-VHD "C:\VMs\WS2012\Virtual Hard Disks\WS2012.vhdx"
 
# List the Disks
Get-Disk
 
# Create the new VHD (SourceDisk = Disknumber)
New-VHD -Dynamic -Path "C:\VMs\NewDefragVHD2.vhdx" -SourceDisk 1

 

Create the new virtual hard disk via PowerShell

 

 



Ordered HP EliteBook 8460w

HP EliteBook 8460wSome days ago I compared the new HP EliteBook and ProBook series. Now I decided to buy the HP EliteBook 8460w mobile workstation. I think this is the best option between performance and batterylife.

Here the 8460w configuration I ordered:

  • HP EliteBook 8460w Mobile Workstation
  • Intel® Core™ i7-2630QM Processor (2.0 GHz, 6 MB L3 Cache)
  • Mobile Intel QM67 chipset
  • 14.0-inch diagonal LED-backlit HD+ anti-glare (1600 x 900) with 720p HD Webcam
  • AMD FirePro™ M3900 w/1 GB gDDR3
  • 8GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM (2D)
  • 500 GB 7200 rpm 2.5-inch hard drive
  • DVD+/-RW SuperMulti DL Drive
  • DualPoint (TouchPad and PointStick)
  • Intel Centrino® Ultimate-N 6300 (3×3)
  • Bluetooth® Wireless Technology 2.1
  • TPM & Fingerprint
  • HP 9-Cell 100 Wh Li-Ion Battery
  • 56K v.92 high speed modem
  • HP Elite Support with limited 3 year standard parts and labor warranty 3/3/3

As I said the main reasons for me to buy this notebook, are the performance, the form factor, the batterylife and of coure the design. I am sure the EliteBook 8460p would be enought performance for me, but I really like the color of the EliteBook w-series notebooks.

Since HP will not release the EliteBook 8460w in Europe I ordered the notebook directly in the HP Online Store with my myus.com account.



Hyper-V Hotfix for Intel Sandy Bridge and Westmere

If you are using Microsoft Hyper-V with new Intel Sandy Bridge or Intel Westmere processors and our server has over 48GB of physical RAM you may get a performance decrease. Microsoft released a hotfix (KB2517329) for this problem.

This could also be a problem with a lot of Hyper-V installations on Cisco UCS, because the most of them will use more than 48GB of memory.

The performance decrease could show its self in the the following issues:

  • The CPU usage is high and the server responds slowly when you copy large files on the computer. For example, you copy a 10-GB file
  • The disk I/O performance of the virtual machines (VMs) is slow
  • Windows takes a long time to start

The hotfix is not include in Service Pack 1 for Hpyer-V R2 or Windows Server 2008 R2.

For more information about this you can check KB2517329



Tuning a Windows 7 VM

I run several Windows Virtual Machines (VMs) on my Mac with VMware Fusion. Even VMware Fusion has a great performance for Virtual Machines I am really happy about every performance increase I can get. I made a list with some tuning tips.

  • First use Windows Classic Theme
  • Deactivate System Protection (You also win some Diskspace)
  • Under System Properties –> Advanced –> Performance –> Choose Adjust for best Performance
  • Deactivate Autostart objects with MSCONFIG

There are a lot of more tips out there but I thinks these are pretty important.